Patrick Hemer is one of the most respected guitarists in the world of hard rock. He has toured the globe, performed with many well-known artists, both on stage and in the studio, and is perhaps best known for his work with the German metal band, Horizon. Hemer took a moment to speak with me and tell me what one piece of gear he uses to obtain his truly unique sound.
What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound? Hemer: It's a difficult question because my signature sound is the combination of several different elements, including guitars, pickups, amplification, and sometimes pedals, which are all extremely important. Anyway, if I had to choose the most essential one, I would probably choose my Marshall Amplification system composed of a JMP-1 preamp, a 5100 power amp and 1960 cabinets.
What about it makes it so important to you? Hemer: Marshalls, in general, are the only choice for me because I started using them in my early teens and their particular response had a strong influence on the development of my playing. Almost like I also learned to play the amp. Before using rack elements, I was using JCM800 heads, whose tone was also great, but I had to keep my Boss SD-1 pedal constantly on to get all the gain I need and this tended to make the whole system so noisy that gating was complicated. So I switched for the rack system that allows me to get the same genuine Marshall tone with much less noise because the JMP-1 delivers enough gain for most of my parts and I just need the SD-1 – with a soft setting – to add a little extra gain on some solos.
What are the major pros and cons? Hemer: The pros are that it's simply the best amp tone in the world for me as well as extremely reliable gear. Cons are that both the JMP-1 and the 5100 were discontinued a few years back and I have to stock spares. Marshall's current EL34 50/50 power amp is also awesome but the 5100 has a little more aggressive edge to it that I do prefer.
How long have you had it, how do you use it, would you ever change it? Hemer: I switched from the JCM800s to the rack system in the middle of the recording of Horizon's The Sky's the Limit back in the early 2000s. I always use the same setting: a JCM800 program on the JMP-1 with everything full up except the mids and the presence full up on the 5100. And I think I would only change it if Marshall released a new JMP-2 or another preamp that would outdo the JMP-1.
Any final thoughts or comments on the gear? Hemer: I think it's a good thing to find the gear that suits you fine as early as possible, learn to use it and then stick to it. It helps being consistent, to allow you to focus on your playing rather than chasing tone and constantly having to adapt to new stuff.